I always think the best way to capture the flavour of a city is to see it from its main waterway, not least because it doesn’t require any physical exertion on my part, and so it was I found myself cruising along the Brisbane River.
It’s an odd juxtaposition of historical buildings, gleaming office high rises, swanky millionaire homes and industrial sites, but fortunately there’s a pretty informative commentary to help make sense of it all, as well as explaining a little about the history of the city. I took the opportunity to jump off the boat at Breakfast Creek Wharf to explore a local icon, The Breakfast Creek Hotel (or the “Brekkie” to those in the know). Of course by exploring, I mean enjoying a couple of beers in the sunny garden and sampling one of the famous steaks.
It doesn’t pay to push yourself too hard y’know.
I hopped back on the boat a couple of hours later as it returned on its next cruise, refreshed and ready to see what else this city had to offer.
The experience: Departs daily at 10.30am and 12.30pm from Southbank Parkland jetty A.
More info: www.rivercitycruises.com.au
Bank on It
As the boat dropped me off in the heart of Brisbane’s cultural precinct, the South Bank, I felt it would have been rude not
to take a wander around. Seventeen hectares of riverside parklands have been carefully planned and constructed along the river, complete with forest walks, water features, picnic spots and, rather bizarrely, a Nepalese Pagoda. I guess it made sense to someone…
It’s a great place for a stroll on a sunny day, but I was soon regretting not packing my cossie, as the undisputed – albeit slightly surreal – high-point is the Streets Beach. A picture-perfect lagoon, complete with sand and lifeguards, and all with prime views of the CBD. Every city should have one.
The experience: South Bank is a five-minute train journey from Brisbane’s Central station.
More info: www.south-bank.net.au
After dipping a toe in the lagoon and shaking the sand out of all manner of places, it was time to take in a bit of the famous culture. The Queensland Museum and Art Gallery are conveniently located side-by-side, at the far end of South Bank, which makes for easy exploring. The museum has some fascinating displays on life in Queensland, both past and present, and on the marine life to be found in its waters. It also features the usual stuffed animal malarkey and obligatory dinosaur skeleton, and it’s perfectly easy to spend an hour or two wandering around.
Unfortunately I spent nearer to the two, which meant I had to dash around the Art Gallery to take it all in before closing time, but from what I saw the extensive collection of European, Australian (colonial to modern) and Aboriginal art was looking pretty good, and certainly deserving of more time than I was able to give it.
By the time they kicked me out though, I was feeling culturally sated and, well, ready for another beer really.
The experience: The art gallery and museum are both a short walk from South Bank station.
Valley of the Beers
Long-famous for being the hub of Brissie’s nightlife scene, Fortitude Valley has no shortage of pubs to choose from – especially along the Brunswick St mall, where the tables spill out onto the pedestrianised walkway. This is arguably the best place in town to come for a drink and mingle with both like-minded travellers and locals.
The valley is also home to Brisbane’s Chinatown precinct, which is worth a poke around (the supermarkets are certainly eye-openers), so being a smart cookie I got myself a bellyful of BBQ chicken and fried rice before settling in for the long haul.
The experience: Take the train from Central station to Brunswick St.
Cost: A one-way ticket costs $2, return $4.
Koalas are deceptively heavy. I discovered this while cuddling my new pal, Goblin, during my morning visit to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, which is set in bushland about 30 minutes from downtown Brissie.
While koala-hugging is the big attraction here, there’s plenty of other stuff going on to keep you occupied. I arrived just too late to watch the sheep dog show, but I did learn more than I ever knew I needed to know about wombats during the wombat talk.
Other activities include koala, kangaroo, bat and snake talks, Tasmanian devil feeding, wild lorikeet feeding and catfish feeding (October to March only). Other than getting up close and personal with Goblin, the highlight for me was splashing out 50 cents on a bag of feed and heading out to the huge field which houses a large collection of roos and wallabies and making myself a few new friends. The sanctuary is also home to dingoes, echidnas, birds and reptiles.
The experience: Jump on 430 bus from the city.
More info: www.koala.net
Feeling the crush after the lunchtime crowds, it was time to find a bit of peace and tranquility. It’s incredibly hard to believe these lush parklands are right in the heart of the city, and incredibly easy to lose yourself in them. Designed to show-off the varied landscapes of the state, you can relax by a lake, wander through a fern grove (not sure about the fake mist, though) or explore a paper bark forest. The heart of the parklands however is the Spectacle Garden, which is made up of many horticultural “rooms”, and is an absolute riot of colour all year-round.
The experience: A 10-minute walk from the city centre, behind the Roma Street Transit Centre.
More info: www.romastreetparkland.com
What is XXXX?
If there ever was a true Brisbane icon, XXXX beer would have to be it. So it was only right that I should finish up my journey by discovering a little more about it – all in the name of journalistic research you understand.
The XXXX Brewery operates several tours a day (bookings are essential), and during my trip I discovered all about the history of the company, watched an interactive display showing the brewing process, and watched hundreds of bottles chug along what is apparently the southern hemisphere’s biggest single packaging line. Oh yes, I also sampled four free beers. Like I said, all in the name of research. Hic…
The experience: To get there, take the train two stops from Central station to Milton (tickets are $4 return).
More info: www.xxxx.com.au
Brissie’s Scene Feeder
Frontman for the indie band Screamfeeder and Brisbane local, Tim Stewart, takes us on a tour of Brisbane’s sites, sounds and scenes.
You can hear Brisbane shining through Tim Stewart’s debut solo album How Does It End; from the ambience of a busker in a mall that could easily be Brunswick Street on opener “Sunday Morning”, to the faint thunder rumbling on “The Difference” that is quintessentially Queensland. Stewart, who has been making music since the early 90s, gives us the heads-up on Brisbane after dark.
Which bands are hot right now in Brisbane?
I’ll start from now, there’s a young band called I Heart Hiroshima, they’ve got a really nice, minimal, stripped-down sound. And there’s the Warm Guns who have a slightly girl-rock vibe about them.
Where are your favourite haunts?
As far as bars go I’d say the Troubadour in Brunswick Street Mall, “The Valley”. It’s warm and cosy, a little more personal and inviting than most of The Valley bars – which are bit more bouncer-ridden and a bit intense. Also you’ve got the Powerhouse in New Farm Park [just south-east from Fortitude Valley], which is lovely on a Sunday afternoon. They have a bar called the Spark Bar, which has comedy and music. It’s a lovely place by the river.
For food you’ve got Chinatown, and a little restaurant called Kim Lan, which is totally undecorated and really plain but the food in my opinion is the best Chinese/Vietnamese food you’ll get in The Valley – all mostly for under a tenner.
And what about the West End?
The West End is probably one of my favourite places in Brisbane because it’s the most multicultural inner-city suburb and it’s still full of pretty cool, left-wing people. It’s a fairly arty, cultural zone.
There was a fear in the 90s that sound regulations would close Fortitude Valley’s entertainment precinct. Did that scare you as a musician?
It was a bit of a scare when it happened but luckily there were enough motivated people in The Valley scene to kick up a big stink about it and it’s worked. The council has come on board and recognised that The Valley is a massive source of revenue and it’s a great big cultural/musical hub so shutting it down would be dumb. All the people from the city have come to The Valley and these days there’s four times the amount of people there on a Friday or Saturday night, all the bars are packed.
Tim Stewart’s How Does It End is out now through Reverberation.